project 4: lighting engines

11/5/19 research + explorations

Types of Lights:

  • Incandescent: typical bulb, bulb has filament, can overheat and burn out.
  • Light Emitting Diode (LED): is becoming increasingly common, a semiconductor, energy efficient, won’t overheat, and consists of multiple diodes to produce light.
  • Halogen Lamp: improved version of incandescent bulbs, inert gas within the bulb increases brightness, has a longer life span.
  • Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL): meant to be a replacement for incandescent bulbs, has a longer lifespan, higher luminous efficiency.

Types of Lighting:

  • Ambient: Atmospheric lighting,
  • Cove: Museum lighting,
  • Work/Task: Spotlights, i.e. Orthodontist lights
  • Accent: Decorative lighting
  • Intermittent: Light that shines in pattern of time: i.e lighthouse.
  • Navigation: Source of illumination for a vessel (i.e. planes, boats) to show its position and status.
(above) line of incandescent lights near the University Center — picture 1 + 2
(left) incandescent bulb at Entropy; (right) LED light at a staircase near Entropy — picture 3 + 4
(left) hanging light in the UC; (right) exit sign with LED — picture 5 + 6


  • Each light has its functions, but you can use a specific light for a different function.
  • Pictures 1, 2, 3: many incandescent lights were strung up and used with both a decorative and ambient lighting function in mind.
  • Picture 3: Looks like cove lighting, but not quite, helps light up the entire wall space. LED strip.
  • Picture 5: Spotlight, many of these in a room helps light up the whole space.
  • Picture 6: Exit sign isn’t exactly a ‘light’ but it is lit by presumably an LED. It helps the sign get noticed in case of an emergency.
(all above) lights seen at the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer Fair
  • Very few lights on display were plain white, most were (pretty saturated) colored.
  • Either the lampshade is patterned, three dimensional or the stand is decorated (i.e. Buddha sculpture at the bottom, plane cylindrical lampshade on top).
  • Some have two dimensional pattens: light shines through in interesting ways (i.e. gridded).
  • Three dimensional lights: shows relationship between shadow and light, light illuminates and reflects off varied surfaces.

Things to Consider:

  • How can I make the light illuminate a whole room?
  • Make sure that the lighting engine isn’t distracting, but also not invisible: has to complement the context.
  • Color temperature: cooler lighting, more formal, won’t make people sleepy.
  • What types of paper can support a big lighting engine?
  • What kind of adhesives that won’t show on paper when it’s lit?
  • On/off state of lighting engine: equally as enjoyable.


  • Became famous for his colorful rectangle/square forms that was intended to depict deep emotions.
  • Look at the relationships between tones and color temperature.
  • What elements work well with each other?
(left) Light Cloud, Dark Cloud 1957 ; (right) Orange and Yellow 1956
  • Likes to work with light, and the presence of space.
  • How can I use the way light reflects/refracts to portray something?
  • How does different levels of illumination affect how the audience views it?
  • An artist known for his sculptures of glass, plastic, and metal.
  • Became a leading component of constructivism
  • Style of art is abstract, he aimed to combine sculptural element with the architectural element into one unit.
  • Flow of the form created by the nylon string portrays a sense of calmness, clean.
  • Organic shapes.
(left) Linear Construction No. 2 1971; (right) Spiral Theme 1941
  • Creates sculptures that are inspired by organic, natural structures.
  • Likes to take inspiration from growth patterns in nature.
  • Repetitive forms are constructed in an organic way.
(left) Untitled; (right) Seed II 2012

11/1–11/12/19 exploration of paper, adhesives, and sketch models

(left) bristol paper; (right) palette paper
(left) tracing paper; (right) tracing paper crinkled
(above) printer paper
(left) paper swatches; (middle) hot press watercolor paper; (right) silkscreen paper
(left) white and warm white stonehenge paper; (middle) 4 ply bristol paper; (right) 2 ply bristol paper
(left) 4 types of adhesives on printer paper; (right) same 4 types of adhesives on tracing paper.
(left) bristol; (middle) canson; (right) tracing
(left) Folia white cardstock; (right) Folia pearl white cardstock
(left) construction paper; (right) printer paper

11/11/19 sketch models:

Sketch 1:

(above) sketch model #1, with light on
(above) sketch #1, with light off

Sketch 2:

(above) sketch model #2
(left) OFF state; (right) back view ON state

Sketch 3:

(above) sketch model 3
(left) side view; (right) OFF state

Sketch 4:

(above) ON state
(above) corners and inserts

Sketch 5:

Sketch 6:

  • Tape was actually very easy to use and hide.
  • Printer paper is not translucent, but is still quite flimsy.
  • Consider ways to utilize negative positive space with paper, how does that affect on/off visuals?
  • Sketch Model 1+3 were interesting.
  • Sketch Model 1 — ON stage is significantly more enjoyable to look at than its OFF state, looks incomplete.

11/13/19 drafting models:

Draft 1:

(left) sketch of first idea; (right) a tab idea to hold the form
(above) trying out the tab method to hold the cylindrical shape
(left) side view; (right) failed attempt at lining the bottom with tracing paper
  • Cylindrical form is too hard to keep symmetrical, stable, and well-crafted.
  • Hard to cut out circles well (craftsmanship concern).
  • Bristol paper was too thick, hard to illuminate a conference room.

Draft 2:

(left) front view; (right) side view
  • Bristol paper is too thick, doesn’t stick well against curved edges (didn’t conform to the shape).
  • The clear vellum used is equally as translucent as the tracing paper used in the beginning of the project, but slightly thicker/sturdier.
  • Light is diffused well in the front and back side, not so much on the sides due to the naked bulb.

Draft 3:

(left) idea sketch; (middle+right) bristol template for easy replication of the triangular prism net
(left) I used a ruler to help make precise creases when folding the prism nets; (right) the triangular prisms
(left) side view; (right) for the center base, I had pasted half half of tracing paper and printer paper to see how bright the light would shine through them.
  • UHU glue stick marks can be easily seen through tracing paper, in both ON/OFF states.
  • Tracing paper is equally as fragile/unstable no matter how many pieces of it you group together. Adding more together does not make it stronger as a whole.
(above) what the light looks like hung up
  • Different levels are intriguing.
  • However, it loses interest on the sides as its the only side that doesn’t show obvious varied heights.
  • What should a conference light do/have?
  • Lighting engine should not distract people in conference room.
  • At the same time, it should not be invisible, it should complement the task (in this case, collaboration in a conference).
  • Because of the numerous layers of tracing paper, the light is too blocked, which makes it hard to illuminate a conference room.
  • Scale up the lighting engine! Too small.
  • Consider ways to bounce light: baffling to reflect and illuminate stronger.

11/18/19 creating alternatives:

(above) other types of light I encountered at Home Depot
(above) new bulb!
(above) design faculty conference room

Draft 4:

(left) brainstorming different ways to approach the ‘pattern’ repetitive design; (middle) initial sketch of draft; (right) ancient Chinese coins
(left) Yupo paper; (right) seeing how Yupo creases vs taping strips together
(left) layering clearprint Vellum to Yupo, layering swatch; (right) layers under light
(above) process of making one of four panels for exterior structure
(above) front and back of panel
(left) exterior shell; (right) second layer
(left) cut panels; (right) all three layers done
(left) example of paper curling after attempting to use UHU glue sticks; (right) used double sided and scotch tape to build the whole draft
(left) side view; (right) under view
(above) group critique exercise from class
  • Craftsmanship, sides are warping.
  • Very industrial, architectural looking.
  • Work on OFF mode: looks like white rectangle
  • Does square shape support any kind of conference room?
  • Looking from underneath: kind of distracting, can still see the bulb and too many windows/holes.
  • Careful of craft! Seal the sides well, avoid warping.
  • Play around with layers, how can it complement the shadows?
  • Vellum to cover the bulb.

11/20/19 creating variations:

(left) different ways to layer; (middle+right) draft brainstorming/plans
(left) Bristol on printer paper; (right) printer paper on Bristol
(left) printer on printer paper; (right) Bristol on Bristol
(left) sturdier Bristol; (middle) flimsy printer paper; (right) how the layers were taped on each panel
(above) joining panels together
(above) how I attached each layer to each other with Scotch tape.
(left + middle) placing all three parts and taping done; (right) adding clearprint Vellum to paper to hide the lightbulb
  • Bristol layered on the exterior walls helped with stability
  • Overestimated the size of the interior, sides are still warpy.
  • Vellum paper effectively covered the bulb and is still bright.
  • White light was strong enough to illuminate through all the layers.

11/24–11/25/19 fine-tuning:

(above) creating the layers for exterior
(above) to prevent underestimating how long each panel is, I made each layer longer so that I could cut the excess off.
(left) cutting out windows from the Bristol; (right) taping clearprint Vellum
(left) Bristol layered on front and back; (right) What it looks like with light
(above) foam core fitted to the structure
(left) foam core fitted to inner square; (right) foam core fitted to second layer/square


(left) light off in context zoomed in; (right) light on on black background
(above) detail shots
(above) light on in context





Hey! I’m currently studying design @CMU with a focus on communications design + minor in HCI. You can find some of the projects I’ve worked on here.

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Sarah Xi

Sarah Xi

Hey! I’m currently studying design @CMU with a focus on communications design + minor in HCI. You can find some of the projects I’ve worked on here.